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Planetary Distress Signal: Many Danger Signs Flashing Red

A Different Way of Looking at the Evidence—and Some of the Danger Signs

We are at a critical point in the evolution of life on Planet Earth. This writer sees more than enough evidence that many danger signs are “flashing red”, and thus more than enough evidence to support the need for a Planetary Distress Signal.

However…any number of samples of public discourse from the most popular mass media platforms would easily demonstrate that a significant majority of people on the planet do not agree with this writers’ assessment. A sense of urgency appropriate to the evidence just doesn’t appear in most public discourse. The evidence this writer sees just doesn’t seem to be “coming through the mist as much as it should be.” Yes, the evidence is complicated (for almost every critical challenge that can be cited).... but for some people it is their work to do what they can to communicate what they believe the evidence is saying. This writer, for one, believes it is time to send a Planetary Distress Signal—and this article represents one way of trying to send such a signal.

The purpose of this article is to share a different way of looking at the evidence of critical challenges ahead (different than most article and book form formatting). It may be that this different way of looking at the evidence can be helpful at conveying the urgencies and danger signs—and it may be that this different way can be helpful to people who are, like this writer, trying to help the evidence “come through the mist”.

The different way of looking at the evidence can be described as a compilation of excerpts from many documents, articles, and websites. The excerpts provided in this article are an example of this “different way”, and they are from a document titled “Long Version Table of Contents” (by this writer). The excerpts refer specifically to the threat of global warming. These excerpts include references to fair use of graphs and charts (a fair use for educational purposes in urgent circumstances policy was adopted), and “A 28 Point Timeline of Reports, Articles, and other Educational Materials Warning About Global Warming “. The “Long Version Table of Contents” document is a supporting document for a larger document titled “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors (at www.cpcsc.info )”.

The section on the threat of global warming—in the larger “Invitation Package” document—is part of a larger piece on critical challenges. That larger piece is described as follows in a shorter Table of Contents:

IV. Critical Challenges of Our Times

A. Monetary Debt
B. Population, Indiscriminant Consumption, and Resource Depletion—Exponentially Increasing World Population at a time when it is culturally acceptable to encourage indiscriminant consumption (with a special focus on Resource Depletion)
C. More about a time when it is culturally acceptable to encourage indiscriminant consumption (with a special focus on the advertising industry’s and the entertainment industry’s part in what is culturally acceptable)
D. The Threat of Global Warming—and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

V. Marginalization of the Treasured Wisdom of Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Traditions

VI. Large Cities (with a Population of 1 million or more) vs. Villages, Towns, and Small Cities

[Note: Another way of describing the “many danger signs flashing red” is this writers’ “List of Ten Critical Challenges” (1 page), which is also a supporting document for the “Invitation Package” (accessible at http://cpcsc.info/invitation-package/ )]

Lest readers think that this article is a self-serving “plug” for the work of this writer [the building of the Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (CPCS) Initiative (at www.cpcsc.info )], here is an excerpt from the title page of the “Invitation Package” document:

“This 589 page document is an invitation to the 272 people listed in Section III ‘List of People Being Formally Invited to Join CPCS Initiative Board of Advisors’—and to citizens from every variety of circumstances who might read this—

to help create, become involved, contribute to, and participate in

a) one or more of the thousands of Community Visioning Initiatives (or some similar stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving process designed to maximize citizen participation) needed to overcome the challenges of our times

b) clearinghouse websites for both Community Visioning Initiatives (or community wide collaborative problem solving/stakeholder engagement processes) and Community Teaching and Learning Centers (Neighborhood Learning Centers).

and to

c) find what inspiration you can from this resource, and use it to make a positive contribution somewhere. No association of societies ever on planet Earth has had to resolve the kind of challenges the next few generations of people will have to resolve. We are going to need all the resources, knowledge, and skills each one of us has, and we are going to need to make the best efforts we can at working together, if we are going to succeed at resolving the challenges ahead of us. If there are readers who have not yet been invited to become a part of the unprecedented effort that is needed, such readers are in every way encouraged to consider this document as their invitation.”

Thus, whether or not attention and assistance are given specifically to the “Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability” Initiative is of even lesser than secondary importance to--

--the idea of creating multiplier effects of a positive nature with stakeholder engagement processes (in a variety of forms) which are designed to maximize citizen participation.

There is an urgent need to exponentially accelerate solution-oriented activity. This is not a time to press for a one size fits all narrative, or one organization which can be an umbrella initiative for the kind of problem solving we need. This is a time for people in communities around the world to learn how to “grow” their own form of collaborative “win-win” narratives in response to the critical challenges of our times. That’s what Community Visioning Initiatives can help with—regardless of the name of the organization which advocates for them.

This writer is submitting this article to a variety of platforms and discussion forums as an effort to send a “Planetary Distress Signal”—and to advocate for Community Visioning Initiatives as a way of mobilizing active citizen participation at every level of society. Anyone is welcome to look at the same evidence this writer has regarding critical challenges—and welcome to make whatever use they wish of the “constellation of initiatives” approach to collaborative problem solving this writer advocates for (which centers on the use of Community Visioning Initiatives, regardless of which organizations or coalitions eventually become lead providers such stakeholder engagement processes). The “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors” is a comprehensive overview of both challenges and possible solutions, and can be accessed at http://cpcsc.info/invitation-package/ .

A Compilation of Excerpts on the Threat of Global Warming (from the “Long Version Table of Contents”)

The following is an example of the “compilation of excerpts” format that this writer makes use of. [Note: Source references are available for every quoted passage (see the “Invitation Package” document), and most often can be found as a preface to the passage quoted.] Hopefully, some readers will find this particular style or format helpful to their efforts to get the word out.

The following excerpts are from pages 4-9 of “Long Version Table of Contents” (complete 27 page “Long Version…” document, and other related documents, are accessible at http://cpcsc.info/invitation-package/ )

D. The Threat of Global Warming—and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

1) Introductory Information

“What causes global warming? We do. Who can reduce global warming? We can.”

a) “These findings are recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations.”
b) “Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (or "sequestered") when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.”
c) “Tropical deforestation, also by human hands, is another major contributor. When these forests are burned, they release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and because the forests no longer exist, they are no longer available to absorb CO2.”
d) “Because of slow removal processes, atmospheric CO2 will continue to increase in the long term even if its emission is substantially reduced from present levels.”
e) “…it will take many decades for an equilibrium temperature to be reached between the air and the sea.”
f) “Although the range of uncertainty for future temperatures is large, even the lower end of the range is likely to have many undesirable effects on natural and human systems.”
g) Equivalence Numbers (Celsius and Fahrenheit)--Changes in degrees Celsius (CO) = how much change in degrees Fahrenheit (FO)?

2) Graphs and Charts—(Note: A fair use for educational purposes—and fair use in circumstances where there is a urgent need for greatly accelerated solution-oriented activity—policy has been adopted) (p. 263)

a) Carbon dioxide records for the past 400,000 years
b) Global Surface Temperature Analysis (1880-2007) (in degrees Centigrade)
c) Sea Surface Temperature (1880-2012) (in degrees Fahrenheit)
d) Arctic Sea Ice Volume (1980-present)
e) Sea Level Rise—and Causes (1994-2012)
f) “…glaciers worldwide have been found to be shrinking significantly”
g) Key Indicators Summary Page (NASA) (p. 268)
h) Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector (p. 269)
i) “Everything That's Causing Global Warming, In One Handy Graph”--“The useful thing about this graph, though, is that we're then treated to a window of how these carbon sources are tied to crucial industrial and social functions, and how closely interlinked and therefore how massively difficult to unlink they are.” (p. 270)
j) Top-10 cumulative energy-related CO2 emitters between 1850–2008
k) List of Countries by 2008 Emissions

3) A 28 Point Timeline of Reports, Articles, and other Educational Materials Warning About Global Warming

a) “If any single event can be said to have put climate change on the world’s policy radar, it was the testimony of NASA scientist James Hansen before Senator Tim Wirth’s committee (Committee on Energy and Natural Resources) in Congress on June 23, 1988.”

b) “An Inconvenient Truth”—“ 2006 documentary film about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show….”

c) “…A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy’s environmental support systems are collapsing.” (“Plan B 2.0”—Lester R. Brown; January, 2006) (p. 275)

d) The Nobel Peace Prize of 2007--shared by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert (Al) Gore

e) “Global GHG (Green House Gas) emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (November 12, 2007): ”152 Lead Authors and 26 Review Editors from 32 countries/498 Contributing Authors from 28 countries”]

f) “Avoiding the unprecedented threats posed by dangerous climate change will require an unparalleled
collective exercise in international cooperation.” [“UN Human Development Report 2007/2008 Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World” (November 27, 2007)]

g) “On January 31, 2008, over 1900 universities, schools, and civic groups nation-wide participated in what amounted to the largest teach-in in U.S. history, involving over a million people in an event designed to educated and engage Americans in a discussion of global warming solutions.” (Focus the Nation)

h) “It also involves cutting carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020…We must move at wartime speed, restructuring the world energy economy at a pace reminiscent of the restructuring of the U.S. industrial economy in 1942 following the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor.” (Plan B 3.0—Lester R. Brown; January, 2008)

i) “During the last global mobilization, the 1939-1945 war, more than 30% , and in some cases more than half, of the economy was devoted to military expenditure (a table with statistics is provided). Is not the cause and the need much greater now?” (“Climate Code Red: The Case for a Sustainable Emergency”; February, 2008)

j) “… confin(ing) the temperature rise to 2° Celsius to avoid unmanageable climate risks…can only be achieved with a peak of global emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2015 and at least a 50% emissions reduction by 2050 from a 1990 baseline.” (“St. James Place Memorandum”—May 28, 2009) (p.281)

k) “Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world.” (NASA “2009 State of the Climate Report”—July 28, 2010)

l) ’The world’s mountain glaciers have shrunk for 18 consecutive years. Many smaller glaciers have disappeared. Nowhere is the melting more alarming than in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau where the ice melt from glaciers sustains not only the dry-season flow of the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers but also the irrigation systems that depend on them. Without these glaciers, many Asian rivers would cease to flow during the dry season…’” (Plan B 4.0—Lester R. Brown; October, 2009)

m) “’The new reality,’ says Brown, ‘is that the world is only one poor harvest away from chaos. It is time to redefine security. The principal threats to our future are no longer armed aggression but instead climate change, population growth, water shortages, spreading hunger, and failing states. What we now need is a mobilization to reverse these trends on the scale and urgency of the U.S. mobilization for World War II.’” (“World on the Edge”—Lester R. Brown; January, 2011)

n) “Indeed there is no reason why the international community cannot avoid escalating conflicts, tensions and insecurity related to a changing climate if a deliberate, focused and collective response can be catalyzed that tackles the root causes, scale, potential volatility and velocity of the challenges emerging.” (“UNEP Chief Addresses UN Security Council Debate on Climate Change and Security”-- UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner; 20 July 2011)

o) “Author Bill McKibben is a foremost authority on climate change… His latest book, The Global Warming Reader, is a well-chosen and arranged collection of climate-related writings by the likes of James Hansen, Al Gore and George Monbiot….” (from Frank Kaminski review; September, 2011)

p) “By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA’s calculations.” (article by Fiona Harvey, including comments by Dr. Fatih Birol; November 11, 2011)

q) “Some even question whether the UN is the right forum for climate talks, since the so-called accords have produced only meager results, while the world's climate continues to heat up inexorably.” (article “The World from Berlin: The Durban Climate Agreement 'Is Almost Useless'” by David Crossland; December 12, 2011)

r) “If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.” (article “Game Over for the Climate” by James Hansen; May 9, 2012)

s) “2,795 Gigatons: ‘This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma…’” (article “McKibben Must Read: ‘Global Warming Terrifying New Math’” by Joe Romm; July 24, 2012)

t) “Scientists agree that countries’ current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments would most likely result in 3.5 to 4°C (7.2 FO) warming. And the longer those pledges remain unmet, the more likely a 4°C world becomes.” (report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 40 Warmer World Must Be Avoided”--for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics; November, 2012) (p. 290)

u) “…the energy industry’s ability to boost production of oil, coal, and natural gas in North America is feeding a global surge in demand for these commodities, ensuring ever higher levels of carbon emissions. “ (article “World Energy Report 2012: The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Truly, Ugly” by Michael T. Klare; November 27, 2012) (p.293)

v) “Some might assume that bond markets are shielded from the effects of climate change, ecosystem degradation, and water scarcity. With more than $40 trillion of sovereign debt in global markets at any given time, that is a very high-risk game.” [article titled “Sovereign Environmental Risk” by Achim Steiner (under-Sectetary General, United Nations and Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Programme) and Susan Burns (Founder of the Global Footprint Network); October 27, 2012] (p. 295)

w) “…we are still perfectly on track for a temperature increase increase up to 5.3 degrees C” (9.5 FO)…” [video presentation “Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map” by Dr. Fatih Birol (Chief Economist, IEA); June 10, 2013] (p. 295)

x) “They calculate that there is ‘more than enough available fossil fuels’ to generate emissions capable of unleashing ‘amplifying feedbacks’ that could trigger a ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect ‘sustained for centuries.’” (article “James Hansen: Fossil fuel addiction could trigger runaway global warming: Without full decarbonisation by 2030, our global emissions pathway guarantees new era of catastrophic climate change”; July 10,2013) (p.296)

y) "In such a world, one thing is guaranteed: global carbon emissions will soar far beyond our current worst-case assumptions….” (article "The Third Carbon Age" by Michael Klare; August 8, 2013) (p.297)

z) “No more than one trillion metric tons of carbon could be burned and the resulting gases released into the atmosphere, the panel found, if planetary warming is to be kept below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius)…”/”More than three trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground as fossil fuels.” (article “U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions”; September 27, 2013) (p.298)

aa) “Achieving such a deep transformation of the energy, industrial, and agricultural systems over the next few decades will represent one of the greatest technical, organizational, and financing challenges that humanity has faced.” (“An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development: Report for the UN Secretary-General”; October 23, 2013) (p. 299)

bb) “The report shows that emissions should peak at 44 GtCO2e by 2020 and fall to 22GtCO2e by 2050 to stay within a 2C target, but under a business-as-usual scenario, which includes no emissions pledges, emissions would reach 59 GtCO2e in 2020.” (United Nations Environment Programme “Gap Report”; November 5, 2013) (p.300)

4) Selected Global Warming Issues in More Depth

a) Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector (again, for emphasis)
b) “If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m….”
c) Again—for emphasis-- our unsustainable relationships with trees and wood/”…the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.” (p.303)
d) “Coal—The Ignored Juggernaut” (p. 305)
e) Transport--“Nearly a quarter of total of the global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to the transport sector. Globally, carbon dioxide emissions from transport have increased 85 per cent between 1973 and 2007.”/ “The number of cars on the world's roads surpassed one billion last year…”; “Earlier this year, the OECD's International Transport Forum forecast that the number of cars worldwide would reach 2.5 billion by 2050.”
f) Livestock—“More than 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to livestock and livestock-related activities such as deforestation and increasingly fuel-intensive farming practices.”
g) “Why the Arctic sea ice death spiral matters” (p. 309)
h) Institutional Investors—“Quite simply, if institutional investors do not systematically reallocate capital from high-carbon to low-carbon investments, particularly in corporate equity and debt, a transition to a low-carbon economy will be virtually impossible.”
i) “The world is on the brink of the ‘largest bubble ever’ in finance, because of the undisclosed value of high-carbon assets on companies' balance sheets, and investment managers who fail to take account of the risks are failing in their fiduciary duty to shareholders and investors, Al Gore and his investment partner, David Blood, have said.” (p. 313)
j) Bond Markets--“IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today issued its second $1 billion green bond in less than a year to support climate-smart investments in emerging markets.”
i) Equivalence Numbers (Celsius and Fahrenheit): Changes in degrees Celsius (CO) = how much change in degrees Fahrenheit (FO)?

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